by Liz Griesmer
Assemblyman Mr. Upendra Chivukula met with the WHS Young Democrats Club on Oct. 9 to organize campaign initiatives for his upcoming election. Chivukula is running for the Seventh Congressional District Seat against incumbent Mr. Leonard Lance, who is seeking a third term.
Ms. Janice Siegel, vice chair of the Westfield Democratic Committee, organized and hosted the meeting at her residence. According to Siegel, the committee has had a longstanding relationship with the WHS Young Democrats Club.
“I spoke with [Chivukula] about the work the students do, and he wanted to meet them. He first met some WHS students when the Westfield [Democrats] had an event he attended. He was impressed by them at that time,” said Siegel.
The WHS Young Democrats Club is led by Social Studies Teacher Ms. Karen Stark and the students who serve as the six executive board members. The club’s main event is Get Out the Vote, according to Executive Board Member Riyad Carey. In preparation for the elections, the club will contact registered Democrats and remind them to vote.
“In 2008, the last presidential election, almost 70 students worked on Election Day [as a part of GOTV],” said Siegel.
In addition to GOTV, the club assists campaign efforts on the local and national levels. It sells campaign merchandise and donates the profits to the Obama campaign, according to Carey.
Chivukula said, “Other student bodies could learn from [the WHS Young Democrats].”
Because of the Seventh Congressional District race’s inclusion on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of emerging races, it will receive national attention.
Ms. Sheridan Balmeo, the director of outreach for the Chivukula for Congress Campaign, said that as a result of the race’s inclusion on the list, the campaign may see “an increased boost of exposure, support and a renewed sense of confidence.”
According to Balmeo, members of the campaign are active in reaching out to students. The Chivukula for Congress Youth Program focuses on “the importance of civic engagement amongst the youth.” Additionally, the campaign’s internship program provides students with a learning environment and introduces them to the political process.
Said Balmeo: “We also focus a great deal on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. We frequently post updates and make our page as interactive as possible. Our campaign also recently launched our social organizing tool on Facebook.”
The club will host another meeting before GOTV efforts on Nov. 6.